Do cats "feel" love? - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-17-2008, 07:46 PM Thread Starter
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Do cats "feel" love?

This has been a topic of great pondering for me, ever since a philosophy lecture we had about a week or so ago. My professor presented an argument, detailing the minds of animals. He said that without a phonetic language, they cannot "think" in the traditional sense. They have no inner monologue, and they live their lives by the moment. They have no emotions besides basic instincts (fear, contentment, aggression...) and thus are incapable of feeling love. Instead, what we cat owners (or should I say, cat servents ) see as love, is actually a cat connecting a creature with food.

I think this is a bunch of pish posh! When Nito and I are cuddling, the look in his eyes is unmistakable love. Just because they don't talk like us, doesn't mean they can't think. And, hey, he tries to talk! How do they know that animals don't think with language? Many animals can understand a multitude of human words, they just don't have the correct mouth apparatus to form the words themselves. Humans need to stop considering intelligence as merely a human trait!

I am wondering what everyone else thinks about this matter.
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post #2 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-17-2008, 08:16 PM
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Re: Do cats "feel" love?

Check out St. Thomas Aquinas. OF COURSE THEY FEEL LOVE.
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post #3 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-17-2008, 08:36 PM
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Re: Do cats "feel" love?

Depends what you mean by "love." That can mean a lot of different things. The Greeks had five words for love, dividing it into (roughly): desire (as in ambition); affection; contentment; platonic love; and sensual or physical love. I would say that cats' emotion that we call love bridges the second and third Greek kinds of love. But whatever it is that's going on in a cat's mind, it's definitely something that's triggered by their relationship with their people.

As an aside, I'd guess your professor is either playing devil's advocate to get you to think, or your professor doesn't have and has never had any pets.
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post #4 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-17-2008, 08:54 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Do cats "feel" love?

He's never had any pets besides a turtle
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post #5 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-17-2008, 09:11 PM
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Re: Do cats "feel" love?

Ooooh I hated philosophy!
My professor was always smiling a smarmy kind of smile. Like he had a secret and we'd never be able to figure it out. The lecture that sticks out best to me, was when he discussed that ALL actions are based in selfishness. Everything you or anyone does, is because of a selfish reason; will make me feel good. (self gratification)
...I have to do this chore or I'll get punished. (covering your butt)
...I volunteer. (more self gratification)
...obey the traffic laws. (covering your butt so you don't get punished by law enforcement)
...disobey traffic laws. (self gratification), because I have to, to survive. (still self gratification)

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post #6 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-17-2008, 09:31 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Do cats "feel" love?

yep yep! Just had that lecture, it's called egoism- that all we are capable of pursuing is ultimately our own pleasure. What really got to me was the lecture about how we don't really have free-will. Stupid stuff. At least it gets you thinking, and teaches you about forming a sound argument.
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post #7 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-17-2008, 10:01 PM
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Re: Do cats "feel" love?

Philosophical questions about altruism and (especially) free will are to my mind perfectly legitimate. There are some very interesting questions there! The notion that we need language to perform certain kinds of cognition is also a viewpoint that's held by a number of people, although it's certainly it's not held by everyone.

I believe that this is only meant to apply to higher cognitive functions, though, not to things like emotions.

Do cats love? You can't answer that without defining "love."

In one of my philosophy classes in college we once watched a video on "are animals conscious" and the professor asked us to write down every different definition of "consciousness" used in the video. One of the reasons no one in the program could agree on whether animals had consciousness is that none of them were answering the same question. Definitions of consciousness ranged from everything to, "Can animals form an internal representation of the spatial layout of their environment" (yes) to "Are animals aware of their own mortality." (Probably not.)

If you define "Does my cat love me?" to mean, "Does it make my cat happy to be near me?" I'd say yes, they do.

If you define it to mean, "Does my cat consider my well-being as important as, or more important than, its own?" than I'd say fat chance.

If you define it as, "Does my cat get a warm fuzzy feeling when they look at me?" I'd say, maybe -- I'd like to think so.

If you define it as, "Am I in some way special to my cat in a way no other human is?" then I'd say no. My cats would be perfectly happy with any kind owner, whereas the average human wouldn't want their lover swapped out for a randomly chosen replacement!
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post #8 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-17-2008, 10:10 PM
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Re: Do cats "feel" love?

Philosophy is not the discipline that can answer this question, although philosophers never seem to tire of trying to answer questions best left to science. Animal behaviorists are finding that more and more animals are capable of emotions we once thought were left to us - dogs feel envy, many primates have a sense of fairness and altruism, and a very few are self-conscious. I also think it's rather bogus of your philosophy professor to put 'love' on some higher plane than other emotions or instincts.

But a shorter answer, of course they feel love. Anyone who's had a loving pet can answer that right away.
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post #9 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-17-2008, 10:29 PM
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Re: Do cats "feel" love?

I had a great philosophy professior. I would have elected another couple of courses if I'd had room in my schedule. A good professor wants you to prove him wrong. We had to be told to leave that classroom..(seriously), and it was a 2 hour summer course. He was great!

I believe our pets feel something special towards us. I think it's love.


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post #10 of 97 (permalink) Old 12-17-2008, 11:42 PM
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Re: Do cats "feel" love?

My opinion: cats, dogs, birds and rats DO feel happiness, contentment, and affection for and in the presence of their special people. They voluntarily express this emotion (it's not instinct) and they don't share it with just anyone. I define that as love.

I'm sure other animals do the same as well, but I have no direct experience beyond these four kinds.
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